Compost Questions - Which Soil is Best For Your Succulents?

Ugh, the soil question. The worst. Every time you meet another succulent grower you're inevitably asked "but what SOIL are you using?". And God forbid the urban garden beginner takes a peek online at what compost their cacti should be potted in. Sand, permilite, gravel, cacti special, basic potting, all rock, pure water. The possibilities are literally endless and each furious online gardener demands that their way is best, that their soil is supreme.

Coffee Arabica ( Not a succulent!) being potted up in just John Innes. This plant is a jungle dweller so doesn't need added drainage help.

I was bamboozled when I started and I'm still confused. My plants have been through three types of soil in the few years I've had them. Each time I've been less convinced and more worried about killing them. Is it holding too much water? Is it holding not enough? But now, I've had a revelation: it doesn't really matter that much. 

OK. It does matter, a bit. A haworthia planted into some peat isn't going to last long. But provided you've got some good drainage in your soil what the soil is isn't a huge problem.

Case in point? The British Cactus & Succulent Society (BCSS) suggests that for most varieties an equal mix of John Innes No.2 or No.3 and some grit is fine. John Innes! Normal compost! The mystery is solved! If you're too lazy to even bother mixing something up, cacti and succulent soil in a bag is also fine, according to the BCSS. Fine! It's that easy.

Crassula Ovata all potted up in the new mix

So today, I marched into a local garden centre, grabbed a bag of John Innes No. and some potting gravel and had an evening in the late sunshine repotting every plant I own in an equal mix of these two bags. So far, so good - they haven't died in the hour that I've done it.

Top tips for potting and repotting? Remember your drainage holes. There's no point potting a succulent or cacti (or really any plant) without them. Secondly, I recommend putting either a layer of the grit in the bottom of your pot, or find some bigger stones such as below and popping them in. This will improve drainage and prevent your soil from falling out the drainage holes when you water.



I think it's best to follow the experts when it comes to soil - if that's their advice, it's most likely the soundest you'll be able to find. Fingers crossed, anyway. Otherwise I'm facing throwing out a bin of succulents next week.

No comments